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This House is Not for Sale

In Nigeria, discontents about corruption extend well beyond worries that politicians and government officials will misuse public resources for private gain. The specter of widespread corruption is seen as emblematic of the threats posed to sociality and shared cultural values by a perceived breakdown of collective morality. Although some forms of what would be conventionally defined as corruption are tolerated and even expected in Nigeria because they support rather than thwart a moral economy in which the reciprocal ties of kinship, community, and a patron-clientism are central to both affective bonds and economic aspirations, other kinds of corruption are scorned because they are perceived to undermine these values. Such behaviors are often described as “419,” the number in the Nigerian penal code for fraud, but also a label that has come to stand for a much wider range of deceptive practices associated with selfish rather than social goals. “This House Is Not For Sale” is painted on many buildings in Nigeria to try to prevent a classic form of 419 in which a scammer tries to sell a property he does not own.

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Participant: Daniel Jordan SMITH
Dept. of Anthropology | Brown University
Presentation: "Corruption, Inequality, and ‘Culture’ in Nigeria"